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Editorials and Commentary

Deadly Case of Denial -- Why Won't World Face Facts About AIDS?

January 16, 2003

"... The battle against [HIV/AIDS] has acquired the traits of a distant, low-intensity conflict -- distasteful, lethal and a cause for genuine concern, but ultimately remote, difficult to solve and something you can learn to live with. This is a dangerous attitude. The HIV/AIDS pandemic will get much more dire before it gets better, even in Africa. Worldwide, it will not peak for another 40 to 50 years.

"Still, many people discount the global threat from HIV/AIDS and hide behind comfortable myths about AIDS, as well as tuberculosis and malaria. Myth: Malaria might happen to travelers but is easily treated. Fact: Malaria, a threat to anyone visiting, working or living in tropical areas, is often drug-resistant and can be hard to treat. Myth: Though we are hearing more about the resurgence of TB, those clever folks at the CDC can get a grip on it. Fact: TB is spreading rapidly in the United States and Europe, due partly to importation from Latin America and Eastern Europe respectively, and drug-resistant TB is both difficult and expensive to treat.

"Concerning HIV/AIDS, we don't hear so many scary stories anymore. Myth: It appears to be under control in the United States. Fact: The domestic epidemics in the wealthy countries continue to grow and increasingly afflict poor, heterosexual women. We do hear that HIV/AIDS is causing lots of deaths in Africa, but Africans have always died in large numbers from infections. Myth: If Africans would only get a grip on their political and economic systems, they could sort this out as we have. Fact: Even a well-governed African country would be unable, if unassisted, to mount the scale of response necessary. Indeed, even we haven't been able to do that.

"Horrifyingly, the worst is still to come. Within a decade, India and China will have half of all the HIV-positive people in the world. The denial that we have seen in Africa is now happening in Asia, a denial fed by the myth of cultural immunity and by the naïve belief that 'it can't happen to us.'

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"Myth: We're starting to win the war against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Fact: The war is just beginning."

Feachem is executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Back to other CDC news for January 16, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Chicago Tribune
01.15.03; Richard G.A. Feachem



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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